Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Nightmare (1994)

Wes Craven gave a big stink about them making A Nightmare On Elm Street into a franchise. In all fairness let's take a look at what he made between Nightmare 1 and New Nightmare: Hills Have Eyes Pt. 2, Dudley Flynn (his lowest point in his career), Serpent and the Rainbow (this was actually pretty good), Shocker, People Under the Stairs (thought it was OK). Now New Nightmare can best be looked at as the film that was a warm up for Scream. It's a really interesting stand alone film for what it is. This is what happens when an artist who cares about the character decides to reboot a series.

The concept here revolves around the creators of the Nightmare On Elm Street series and how they start having nightmares about Freddy Kreuger. All the principle actors are playing themselves: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, producer Bob Shea and Wes Craven himself. There are new appearances, the son Dylan and the babysitter Julie. Robert Englund plays 3 different incarnations. He plays himself, the new incarnation of Freddy and Freddy Kreuger. There's a scene in this that cuts straight to the heart of what Craven was trying to say about the sequels. Robert Englund is on a talk show and says "You're all my children now." Harkening back to Part 2. They're obviously sticking it to the last few sequels where Freddy had become that over the top.

It does have it's self infulgent moments. When dealing with a concept like this of course there's going to be. It also has it's share of gaps in the story. But I'm willing to forgive those flaws because there are some really good scenes here. The funeral scene in particular.

This film is much better watched alone than in sequence with the rest of the series. It's not mean to be a Nightmare On Elm Street film. You can remove Freddy and have it be about a fictional horror character and it still works. With New Nightmare, Craven came up with an interesting concept that's fun and puts the series back on track.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

It is said that Peter Jackson was originally supposed to direct Part 6. It was called The Dream Lover at that time. It would have been alot more interesting than what we get here. This is Jason Goes to Hell level. Taking the mythology and rewriting it. Taking a known concept and character and twisting it. Only reason I can see them doing this is to piss Wes Craven off enough to make a better sequel. In this case, it worked. By now Freddy is a character the kids love. The humor and puns are here in full force.

As if Freddy as a caped villian wasn't bad enough, we now have him dispatch a character by him being sucked into a video game. Freddy dawns a Ninendo power glove and a new level of cheese has been reached.

The whole 3D segment is a gimmick and a bad sendoff to a great villian.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

This film represents the final part in a 3 part arc (3,4,5). Alice & Dan return from Part 4. There are three characters set up. You get Yvonne, a high diver who doesn't look the part. Mark, a comic book artist portrayed by an atrocious actor. And finally Greta. It plays up the dufus loser parents angle more than anything. Mark's dad is a fat slob and Greta's mom is a shallow high society snob.

Now let's get to the writing. This is the all exposition script. Newspaper clippings, Freddy's background and so much recap. You can do anything with the nightmare sequences and the fact that they chose to go with poor ones shows. Case in point, the demonic Freddy baby is used as a means to re-introduce Freddy to the world. Might as well just write the whole thing on a chalkboard at this point as so many scenes are straight up exposition. On top of that, a scene involving Mark and Alice bringing up abortion has no place in this movie. Do they realize once they do that, THEY will start having nightmares?

This film also features the most over the top kill of the series involving an incredible drawn out sequence between Dan, a truck and a motorcycle. Let's not forget a dozen one-liners. OK, now how can we make it dumber? Mark's dream sequence (a sequence that rips off the "Take On Me" music video) in which Freddy dons a superhero cape.

The makeup effects are incredibly sub standard. Case in point, Greta's death. Freddy stuffs her face with food and ends up make her face look like the Lady In the Radiator from Eraserhead. This sequel suffered the most edits from the MPAA and it shows.

In summary, this film suffers alot in having a good idea and not knowing what to do with it. In the realm of franchises, any sequel that ends with a 5 (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Star Trek, Saw) is bad news.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

By the time part 4 came out, Freddy Kreuger was a cultural hit. You had all sorts of Freddy merchandise ranging from poster boards to action figures. Add to that the first time a Kreuger movie being released in the summer. It was also rushed into production after the success of part 3.

We are also presented with a rarity in slasher horror: three survivors from the previous installment returning. Unfortunately, Patricia Aquette did not come back for this film. Her replacement, Lisa Wilcox is adequare though. The problem with this though is how quickly the last of the elm street kids are disposed of in order for us to follow new characters. It's the Alien 3 effect if you will. You just need to look at Kincaid's scene in the junkyard. I think they could have capitalized on that and have Kincaid use his dream powers to a fuller extent. But that's not what the movie is going for. It's almost disprectful to Wes Craven in being that they're getting rid of the characters from his previous script so quickly. It was a pissing contest between Harlin and Craven essentially, and Renny won because he pissed fire. But we'll get to that little nauseating tidbit later.

This is the first movie with chains. Interesting seeing that it came out a year after Hellraiser. It seemed as if Freddy was chasing Hellraiser's tail. Now say what you want about Pinhead, but the Nightmare series never got as gruesome or as grisly as what the Cenobites did to people in Hellraiser.

The Dream Master for me ranks above 2, 5, & 6 but below 1, 3 & 7. It's a fun installment and as the film would turn out to be succesful, it would only be a matter of time until the franchise would go downhill.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

"Sleep those little slices of death. How I loathe them." -Edgar Allen Poe

My personal favorite of the series and one of my favorite horror flicks of the 80's because of its visual inventiveness. Freddy's world is fully realized with a bigger budget. It does everything a great sequel should do. Iconic imagery. Memorable characters. Throwbacks to the first film. It straddles the line between dark horror and mainstream lightness. A lightness that would be full blown in future installments. As good as Chuck Russell's direction was, the heart of the film lays in Frank (Shawshank Redemption) Darabont's script.

The film revolves around the last of the Elm Street children who are locked up in an institution. Our protagonist is played by Patricia Arquette who after, having a nightmare of Freddy coming after her, ends up slitting her wrists. She joins the rest of the Elm Street kids. Heather Langenkamp from the 1st film shows up to explain to the kids who has been haunting their dreams.

The visual that has I would take out as the most haunting not just from this film but the whole franchise would have to be what happens to Philip. It's such a brilliant kill and is one of the best in the series. The second death of Jennifer getting smashed through a TV involves the only line ad libbed by Robert Englund in the entire series: "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" This line would come back to haunt him for the rest of the series. From that scene onward, we are now dealing with a jokester Freddy. A Freddy who loves throwing out one liners.

Just as Goldfinger became the film that crystallized the James Bond formula and laid down the path for rest of that franchise, it wasn't until Dream Warriors that they figured out how to make a series out of Nightmare On Elm Street. Dream Warriors did have the perfect amount of camp and serious horror. A balancing act that would shift drastically towards camp in future entries of the series.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

The bastard son of 100 maniacs has returned. The lack of connection to the first movie is the a major factor people use to gripe about this film (well, besides all the homoeroticism). That being said, Freddy is still his menacing self and if there is one thing I like about a good sequel is it's ability to stand on it's own while still pleasing fans of the original.

That's not to say this film doesn't have it's low points. This entry is less about dreams and more about possession. In fact, take Freddy out of it and you got a possession film along the lines of Amityville Horror 2.

Anyone who has seen this film should realize the homoerotic symbolism that is apparent. It's not a detraction but it is a distraction. If there was one incident it could be viewed as accidental but there's just too many instances to mention here for that.

Another strange flaw is the possessed bird. Does Freddy think that if all else fails with possessing the teenager he has to possess the bird?

The Freddy Kreuger we are presented here is the darkest yet. Yes, more so than in the original. It's not the worst in the series. Not by a longshot.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

1, 2, Freddy's coming for you. Wes Craven directed this first entry in the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. New Line Cinema will always be known as The House That Freddy Built. This was the first film they produced and the Elm Street series would become their calling card.

Wes Craven got the idea from 2 events. The first involves him reading about a Cambodian refugee who had nightmares and when his parents found him in his room, he was dead. The second involves Wes as a kid and having a tall dark stranger staring at Wes through his bedroom window.

The entire movie takes place after Freddy Kreuger is dead. Freddy Kreuger, for those not in the know, was a child murderer who was arrested and released on a technicality. So then a bunch of parents decide to get together and burn him alive. He comes back as an avenger who kills the children of the parents who have killed him. Opening shot we are shown Freddy creating his famous glove. The Charles Bernstein theme playing over it is perfect. One of the best horror movie openings.

The idea of using dreams against people is so brilliant and allows people to really run wild with their imagination. Dreaming is something you can't avoid. Out of the the three big slashers, Freddy is the least amiguous. He has limitless power in the dream world.

The film is remembered for a variety of iconic images. The image that most haunts me from this film is the bloody bodybag being dragged into a room of the school. There's just something about the arm that flops out of the bag that gets to me. It also has one of Johnny Depp's first roles as Nancy's (Heather Langenkamp) boyfriend.

With that said, as there those who agree this is the best film of the series, there are weaknesses. For one, Heather Langenkamp's acting. Secondly, one of the worst eulogies ever is delivered when one of the characters snuffs it. It is interesting seeing the love for a film with these types of flaws but it does make sense. It's one of the best concepts for a horror film and so much more could be done with. Which more or less, for better or worse, this is taken into account later on in the series.

Despite its flaws, I do give this a high reccomendation. Great imagery, great kills and a brilliant concept. There's really no lull in the movie in terms of pacing. It engrosses me everytime I watch it.

The Girl Next Door (2007)

The Girl Next Door

An absolutely devastating film adapted from Jack Ketchum's book. Based on true events and set in a small New Jersey town in 1958. It centers around Meg and her sister who, after their parents die in a car crash, have to live with their aunt and three cousins. Meg meets the boy next door Dave and befriends him. Aunt Ruth believes that Meg is becoming a tramp and punishes Meg's sister for it. Things get out of control and Meg ends up getting tied up in the basement.

What makes the film so distrubing beyond the sadistic violence is the sense of morals going around. Aunt Ruth is so firm in her beliefs and her 3 children are basically brainwashed and under her control. The one character that the film allows people to cling onto as a protagonist is a boy named David. But even then it's hard to root for him as he does not tell anyone what is going on. It's maddening but also smart in that it's not giving you an easy out.

Say that David's parents were responsible enough to not let him hang around Ruth's house after seeing Ruth handing out beers to her kids. There is a huge narrative theme going on in this film about adults not caring.There is not a single redeemable adult in this movie.

After seeing this film, I look at the Saw films or the Hostel films the same way I think of the Friday the 13th films. They are just horror movies with some gory scenes in it and a villian. This film is not gory at all. It's ideas of abuse are far more terrifying than anything presented in the Hostel and Saw films. It definately needs to be watched by horror fans who are wanting to discover something truly terrifying.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Night of the Demon (1957)

Jacques Tourner is a director who started off directing Val Lewton pictures in the early 40's. Those films being Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie. He brushed up his filmmaker status in the auteur realm with the 1947 noir Out of the Past. It wasn't until 1957 that he would return to horror. And a grand return it was. Based on an M.R. James story 'Casting the Ruins', Night of the Demon is as good a horror film you will find from the 50's. Several plotpoints were even borrowed by Sam Raimi to make the most recent Drag Me to Hell.

Night of the Demon starts out when John Holden (Dana Andrews) discovers that his colleague has been murderedunder mysterious circumstances. Right off the bat we see the reason- a demonic creature. The images of the demon itself are well known among fans of horror films from this particular era. Holden denies that it is the work of the devil until he finds himself involved in a curse. There's also a strong sense of film noir in the film which should make sense as Tourner worked on several film noirs before doing this. What makes it a classic is the use of atmosphere, tension and performances.

Note: There are 2 versions of this film. The original UK release ran 95 minutes and is titled Night of the Demon. The second one is the US version which runs 82 min. Both versions are on the Colombia DVD release.

Pieces (1982)

The poster says: You don't have to go to Texas to have a chainsaw massacre. This film goes to a college campus for one.

There were countless slasher flicks made in the 80's. But there are a select few that stood out above the rest. Pieces is near the top of that list. It's probably one of the most sickest and most violent of the slasher films as well. It's about a psychopathic killer who collects body parts from his college co-ed victims to create the likeness of his mother who he savagely murdered with an axe when he was ten years old.

Our list of suspects include campus stud Kendall, totally weird anatomy professor Brown, creepy groundskeeper Willard, and the even creepier campus Dean. The investigation is headed by Lt. Bracken (Christopher George), his assistant Holden, tennis star-turned-undercover-officer Mary Riggs, and, um, campus stud Kendall, who for some reason is made an honorary deputy despite the fact that he is a suspect. Yes, Kendall’s involvement with the police force, which includes putting him on the case, showing him all evidence, and giving him the task of watching over Mary Riggs’ safety, is only one of the absolutely baffling and hilarious turns this film will take.

Among the many hilarious scenes is one that involves a man going into an elevator while trying to hide a chainsaw behind his back. Not to mention Lynda Day's overacting. But the icing on the gore covered cake is a shockingly grotesque finale that is sure to make every male watching the movie moan in agony. It's total grindhouse and I love it for that.


Grindhouse Releasing really packs their DVDs with extra material and this DVD is no exception. You get the original poster, which I think is one of the coolest horror posters out there, Never before seen in-depth interviews with the director Juan Picquer and genre superstar Paul L. Smith, gallery of stills, and liner notes by horror journalist Chris Balun.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inside (2007)

When it comes to the horror genre, the French are well adapt at tackling difficult subjects and injecting horrific circumstances around them. Take for instance the film Inside. Released in 2007 and starring Alysson Paradis as Sarah and Beatrice Dalle as The Woman.

The story is very simple. Sarah is a pregnant women who, four months after her husband's death in a car accident, prepares to head to the hospital to deliver her baby. Then, late one night, alone in her house on Christmas Eve, a visitor arrives. Now this is a scenario we've seen a million times on film. What makes this film effective is it's ferociousness in its delivery of the scenario.
The visitor decides to terrorize the pregnant woman in her home. Upon invading the house she takes up whatever sharp implement at hand and pursues the pregnant Sarah. She is determined to perform a grisly C-section. There are scenes involving knitting needles and scissors that will have people's jaws on the floor. There are several scenes that take place in a bathroom. By the end of the film, the bathroom is almost coated full in blood. There are events that take place in the film are quite unpredictable. In what is one of the most horrific and brutal endings to a horrror film in a long time. This woman is batshit insane and when the horror starts it's unrelenting right up until the very end of the film. It's common sense that this is not a film to watch with someone who is pregnant or is expecting. Now I am not a fan of the torture porn genre in which Saw and Hostel are apart of. This is not torture porn, I can assure you. One of most grisly and realistic gore films I've seen.